Sittser explores redemption, using plot, story, and setting to discuss who we are, what we are becoming, and how God changes us. Returning often to his own story—two decades ago his mother, wife, and young daughter died in a car accident that he and three children survived—Sittser writes of God’s sovereignty and grace both theologically and experientially, encouraging readers to see their own stories as part of the big Redemption story. Our goal should be holiness, not happiness, and Sittser encourages readers to develop “an ambidextrous faith” that will help us live for Christ in both adversity and prosperity: “God can use both to enlarge our capacity to trust him and conform us to the image of his son.”
Winter’s excellent book deals comprehensively with a topic affecting many people: He treats in a balanced way the role of nature and nurture, and explains differences between sadness, grief, and depression. The first half of the book deals with definitions and treatments, including the uses and limits of medication. The second, with a counseling and pastoral focus, shows depression’s connection to anger, fear, guilt, and anxiety. Drawing examples from the Bible and history, Winter provides biblical strategies for combating depression’s distorted perspective. He ends the book with this encouragement: “For now we endure the valleys, shadows and dark nights with our hope in the day when Christ returns. Then the darkness will never fall again.”
Our culture provides few positive role models for young women, but in this collection of essays de Rosset offers an alternative: a dignified life. She uses Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett as examples of self-possessed, formidable women and writes, “To be a Christian woman of dignity, a person must know who she is before God; she must have dealt with her personhood and made decisions about who she will be.” De Rosset encourages every young woman to ground herself theologically, read thoughtfully, and think carefully about beauty, sex, and leisure: Instead of sliding into situations, she can then make wise decisions about who she will be.
The essays in this slender volume deal with women and HIV/AIDS, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where women are often poor and vulnerable to social and sexual exploitation. The essays argue from the Bible for a higher view of women and for compassionate care of the afflicted. Essay topics range from disease statistics and treatment to Jesus’ view of women. One traces the early church’s unique role in caring for the sick. Stories of several AIDS sufferers help keep the book from becoming too academic: Although one writer gets into an egalitarian discussion of gender roles, overall the book is a timely reminder that the battle against AIDS is ongoing, and the Bible-shaped worldview is crucial in fighting it.
Two books for young children help parents talk about disabilities and adoption.
A Very Special Family by Mary Ellen Tippin (Mennonite Press, 2012) weds lovely illustrations with a story that has just enough suspense to keep it from being saccharine. Two collie dogs owned by Farmer Good have puppies. Three of the four are “different”—a too-short tail, different colored eyes, a bark that sounds like a cat’s meow—and only one is “normal.” The “different” ones annoy a wicked farmhand who tries to get rid of them, but the farmer and their doggy parents love them.
In the self-published Chosen By Love (Xulon, 2012), Tom Jaski tells a story about Chloe, a young girl who is sad after being teased by kids on the school bus for being adopted. Her mom sits her down and explains the similarities between her daughter’s adoption into her earthly family and the mother’s adoption into God’s family. The book explains clearly an important concept. —S.O.